The party has died down like the embers in the fire pits strung along the beach, still glowing warm in the dusk. Bryan, not quite sober, strolls past them in a line not quite straight. On down the beach, a series of figures race into the water, shouting, not sober at all. There’s a chill rolling in off the lake, almost enough to cut through Bryan’s pleasant, beery contentment.
He realizes with some surprise that he’s come to the last fire anybody’s bothered to build, and that Dales is sitting by it, and that, biggest surprise of all, Dales is alone. “Isn’t the party supposed to be where you’re at?” Bryan asked, dropping onto one of the railroad ties circling the fire.
Dales startles at Bryan’s voice and then relaxes again. “You, too.”
“It’s your day. I’m just a tagalong.”
Dales wrinkles his nose like he’s going to argue, like his name isn’t printed right on the Keeper of the Cup’s official schedule for today. (Even when Bryan hears the guy’s title aloud, the capital letters are there.)
“Good time?” Bryan says, to head that argument off at the pass.
Dales nods at the fire, smiling wide. Boundless. Bryan’s never met someone who smiles with quite as much of their heart as Dales - or who hugs with as much of it, either. Bryan’s maybe wondered a time or two what else Dales puts that much heart into.
“You dry out yet?” Bryan asks. Distracting himself this time.
Dales shrugs and pokes at the hem of his t-shirt, which still looks a little the worse for wear. “I could have just taken it off.”
“I think your clothes smelling like champagne is part of the point.” Bryan’s tongue catches on the Ps; Dales doesn’t seem to notice. He tugs the hem up and pulls the whole shirt over his head. The motion requires more flailing than usual, and it occurs slowly to Bryan that Dales is not entirely sober, either.
And then he’s shirtless and grinning triumphantly at Bryan. “We should go skinny dipping.” Dales says. While Bryan’s still trying to formulate a response to that, Dales is already on his feet and fumbling at the button of his shorts.
“You’re my elder,” Bryan says, standing as if Dales’ sheer enthusiasm were pulling him upright. “Aren’t you supposed to be mature and stuff?”
“Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” Dales agrees solemnly. He shoves his shorts down and his tighty-whities with them, and turns to Bryan. He lifts his chin in challenge. “So?”
And he’s just standing there, buck naked and hanging free, the fire burnishing his skin like his heart’s glowing right through it, and how is Bryan going to say no to that? He fumbles his shirt off and his shorts, and he takes one backward glance towards the remains of the party. Dales has family up the beach somewhere that is probably not nearly as desensitized to looking at his naked ass as Bryan is.
Then again, as Bryan follows Dales downslope he reflects that he’s maybe not that desensitized either.
Dales runs straight in with a shout. Bryan follows. The sudden shock of the cold is like a hit to the teeth. It sobers him up and knocks the breath out of him in a single sharp gasp, and he’s trying to catch it again as he follows Dales farther in.
“Fuck, it’s cold!” Dales yells joyfully.
And just like that, joy wells up in Bryan, too. It warms him from the core out. “Hey. Hey, Dales!”
Dales turns. Bryan catches a glimpse of white teeth. “Yeah?”
“Dales, we won the Stanley Cup!”
Bryan’s deep enough now. He pushes off and heads towards Dales with lazy strokes. He learned how to breathe for swimming, once upon a time, but it’s too much work tonight. He’s not that sober; he’d probably drown.
He gets to Dales, who’s still right where he was, treading water. The remains of the party are far behind them now, however clear the sound of it travels across the water. There’s only them and that certainty between them of Lord Stanley’s Cup, shining silver in the light of some dying fire on the shore.
“We did it,” Bryan says, hushed.
“Yeah, Rusty,” Dales says. It’s like a whisper.
Bryan pushes that last distance through the water. Dales is right there waiting for Bryan to float into Dales’ space, to grip his shoulder and put his mouth to Dales’. Bryan’s clumsy at it, with nothing to stand on and nothing to hold onto except Dales, but they manage it. Only as Bryan kisses Dales does he realize how cold the water is, how Dales is the only warm thing in it. “We did it,” Rusty said against Dales’ lips.
“We did.” Dales breathes the words right into Bryan’s mouth, and Bryan kisses him again, sliding his tongue between Dales’ teeth. Here, Bryan’s tongue can’t trip him up. Here his tongue is good at things.
A shiver crawls across Bryan’s scalp. “Hey, Dales,” Bryan says.
“Dales, it is fucking cold in this fucking lake.”
Dales laughs at the sky. “It really fucking is.”
“You want to find some place dry and warm? And—” Maybe Bryan’s reading things wrong here. Maybe he’s willing to take that chance. “And private?”
The question hangs in the air for the space of a heartbeat, a single stomach-swooping moment. Then, “Fuck yes. Race you?”
Before Bryan can answer, he’s alone as Dales races for shore. He’s not half-assing it; he’s putting his whole heart into it, like he does everything, and Bryan’s helpless to do anything but follow.